Updated: April 12, 2021 10:39:26 pm
With restrictions on any kind of “political gatherings” being in place in Punjab to curb the Covid spread, the much-awaited inauguration of Jallianwala Bagh Memorial has been put off indefinitely.
The revamped monument was to be virtually inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is also the chairperson of the Jallianwala Bagh Memorial Trust, on April 13, to mark 102 years of the massacre in which 379 people had lost their lives. The memorial has been shut for the public since February 2019 for an extensive makeover being implemented by the National Building Construction Company.
Rajya Sabha member and BJP leader Shwait Malik, who is also a member of the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust, told The Indian Express, “The plan was to open it to the public from April 13, but in the wake of stricter restrictions being announced in the state last week, it has been decided to postpone the inauguration. In any case, we can’t hold any gathering or open it for the public. So, who do we inaugurate it for if we can’t allow visitors?”
A Rs 19.36 crore package was announced by the Centre in 2019 as a part of commemorating the 100th year of the massacre. Restoration work and building of facilities (such as toilets, ticketing counters and drinking water) are being done under the Ministry of Culture currently.
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Malik added that setting up these facilities is still a work in progress. “Although 90 per cent of the work has been complete, some final touches are still being given,” he said.
The upgrade work includes a five-minute light and sound show in Hindi, Punjabi and English for visitors.
Meanwhile, the entry and exit points have been repositioned, and a lotus pond has been built around the main memorial. Also, a glass wall now surrounds the Martyrs’ Well and the passage from the entrance to the well has been redesigned. A Salvation Ground has been built for visitors to sit in silence to honour the martyrs and two new display galleries have been added to the memorial.
The memorial has also become a political hotspot with both the Centre and the state governments laying their claims over its legacy. In 2019, the Centre brought in a bill to remove the president of the Congress party as a permanent trustee to the Jallianwala Bagh Trust. It also empowered the central government to terminate a nominated trustee before the expiry of his/her term.
Recently, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh announced the building of a separate memorial dedicated to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar.
Malik said, “The CM is going to construct a memorial for martyrs just 5 km away from the Jallianwala Bagh. The trust was run by the Congress for 70 years and ruined the garden. I am not against the new memorial but oppose the politicisation of the issue.”
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